Difference Between Natural Selection and Adaptation

Let us discuss some details about natural selection and adaptation before discussing ‘what is the difference between natural selection and adaptation?’. Both natural selection and adaptations are part of the evolution of the species.

Natural Selection

Natural selection is a process in which living organisms adapt and change. However, all individuals in the population are naturally variable. The change occurred by natural selection is a heritable trait of a population over generations. Natural selection is the key mechanism of evolution.

Natural selection is classified in different ways depending on the following factors. 

  • Effect on the trait 

  • The effect on genetic diversity.

  • Lifecycle state 

  • Unit of selection

  • Resources being competed for.


Adaptation is an evolutionary process that helps the organisms to fit in their environment. It is generally a process not a Physical state of change. The adaptation was described in ancient times by Greek philosophers like Aristotle and Empedocles. Adaptation is a continuous process that does not have the final form.

Adaptation is majorly discussed in Philosophy of Biology, and it is related to Biological fitness. There are different types of adaptations that are discussed below. Take a look here:

  • Structural adaptations: It is a physical feature of the organism, eg: Fur on a Bear.

  • Behavioural adaptations: This is something which organism does to survive and reproduce. 

  • Physiological adaptation: It is the way in which an organism responds to the stimuli in the environment.

  • Co-adaptation: This will occur in two or more interacting species for mutual benefit. 

  • Mimicry: It is the superficial resemblance of other organisms which are not closely related. It helps to save the living organism from predators and survive.

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Above, Diagram is an example of adaptation. The plant is Ophrys apifera (Bee orchid) which uses Pheromones to attract male bees. It is designed in such a way that, in attempting to copulate with the flower, pollen adheres to the insect’s body.

What is the Difference Between Natural Selection and Adaptation?


Natural Selection 



Natural selection is the mechanism which increases the probability of advantageous traits in the coming generations.

Adaptation is the characteristics to change according to the environment.


Example: Some giraffes have a long neck and others have short necks if low-lying shrubs die. Giraffes with short necks would have not got enough food. So, after a few generations, all giraffes would have a long neck.

Example: Bill on a bird and fur on a bear are some structural adaptations. 

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What are the Basic Types of Adaptations?

Ans. The basic types of adaptations are behavioural adaptation, structural adaptation, and physiological adaptation. These are the most common adaptations seen in all the organisms.

2. What is the Main Difference Between Natural Selection and Artificial Selection?

Ans. Natural selection and Artificial selection - both cause a change in the organisms. Natural selection is a process which occurs naturally and artificial selection happens only when there’s human involvement in it.

3. What are the Two Types of Behavioural Adaptation?

Ans. Behavioural adaptation is something which organisms do to survive and reproduce. There are two types of behavioural adaptation. The behaviour which can be learned and passed through the generation. And, other behaviour is an instinctive adaptation, which is passed through generations genetically.

4. What is the Difference Between Adaptation and Evolution?

Ans. Adaptation generally occurs in living organisms. It is a process by which organisms change physically, structurally, and in Behavioural to survive and reproduce in the environment.

Evolution is the bigger term, which refers to the change in anything (living or nonliving) over time is known as evolution. For example, we can see the evolution of the Pepsi bottle over a period of time.